‘Propaganda of sodomy’: Georgian far-right protests against Swedish Oscar film

Hundreds of far-right activists burned a rainbow flag and cried "Shame!" during a protest in the Georgian capital against an Oscar-nominated Swedish-Georgian gay-themed film which premiered amid a heavy police presence.

'Propaganda of sodomy': Georgian far-right protests against Swedish Oscar film
Protesters massed outside the Amirani cinema in Tbilisi. Photo: Vano Shlamov / AFP
Set in Georgia, “And Then We Danced” — Sweden's official Oscar submission in the best international feature film category — is a love story about two male dancers in Georgia's national ballet company.
The drama has won worldwide critical acclaim but was denounced by the Caucasus country's influential Orthodox Church as an “affront to the traditional Georgian values”.
In front of the Amirani cinema in the capital Tbilisi, the anti-gay protesters chanted “Long live Georgia!” and “Shame!”. They burned the rainbow flag as an Orthodox priest recited a prayer.
The interior ministry said 11 protesters were arrested for “disobeying police”.
The cinema, which had earlier posted a video on Facebook of policemen checking the cinema's seats with sniffer dogs. let ticket holders inside for the evening premiere showing and then shut the doors.
“Georgian folk dance is an epitome of the Georgian spiritual values, we will not let them defile our national traditions,” said one of the far-right protesters, 35-year-old housewife Teona Gogava.
Maka Kiladze, a forty-year-old choreographer who was among the audience in the cinema, said: “There is huge interest towards the film in Georgia. It's anomaly that we have to face an angry mob to attend a film screening”.
'Dark times'
Earlier this week, Sandro Bregadze, a former junior minister in the ruling Georgian Dream party's government, said his nationalist Georgian March group would not allow the film to be screened in Tbilisi, calling it “propaganda of sodomy”.
Levan Vasadze, a Georgian businessman with links to Russia's anti-Western and far-right groups, said his supporters will “enter screening rooms in the six cinemas in Tbilisi and turn off the projectors,” also vowing to “shove back police if need be”.
“Some far right groups and the Church have basically condemned the film and are planning to stop people from entering the sold out screenings,” the film's director Levan Akin, a Swede with Georgian roots, wrote on his Facebook page
earlier Friday.
These are “dark times we live in,” he wrote, adding that it is important to “stand up against these shadowy forces in any way we can”.
Georgia's interior ministry issued a statement, promising to ensure “the protection of public safety and order, as well as the freedom of self-expression”.
“We address everyone: obey the law. Otherwise, police will use their lawful mandate and suppress unlawful acts immediately,” the statement said.   
Homosexuality is still highly stigmatised in Georgia, a socially conservative Black Sea nation where the immensely influential Orthodox Church has previously clashed with Western-leaning governments over social issues.
Homosexuality was banned in Georgia after the country was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1921.
After the Soviet Union's collapse, the ban was not enforced, but officially homosexuality was only decriminalised in 2000, with anti-discrimination laws adopted in 2006.
Critics of the ruling Georgian Dream party have accused the government of giving tacit support to homophobic and nationalist groups which traditionally support the party in elections and have staged protest rallies against pro-Western opposition parties.

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Sweden pins its Oscar hopes on ‘Borders’

Sweden will be represented at the 2019 Oscars by the Cannes-winning film ‘Border’ (Gräns), the Swedish Film Institute announced on Tuesday.

Sweden pins its Oscar hopes on 'Borders'
'Border' stars Eero Milonoff and Eva Melander. Photo: Micke Bayart/Azul
The film, directed by Ali Abbasi and based on a short story by ‘Let the Right One In’ author John Ajvide Lindqvist, will compete for the Academy Award in the Best Foreign Language Film category. 
“I am overwhelmed; I thought it was impossible to even get to Cannes, but as the film has grown and is now being screened at festivals all over the world, the Oscars don’t seem so far away all of a sudden,” Abbasi said in a press release. 
‘Border’ tells the story of Tina (Eva Melander), a misshapen social outcast who uses her animal-like sense of smell to sniff out the guilty as a customs officer. When she meets Vore  (Eero Milonoff), who shares her unique appearance, Tina discovers the truth about who she really is. Hollywood Reporter describes the film as “a universal parable about tribalism, racism and fear of the Other”. 
‘Border’ had its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year and would go on to win the festival’s Prix Un Certain Regard. It has also been selected for inclusion in the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival and was recently honoured with the Critics award at the Norwegian Film Festival. In addition to the Oscar nomination, Abbasi’s film is also shortlisted for a nomination at the European Film Awards. 
Lindqvist, whose novel ‘Låt den rätte komma in’ was made into a successful Swedish film and remade for an American audience as ‘Let Me In’, is a co-screenwriter on ‘Border’ for the film adaptation of his novella. 
“It’s a victory for all those who don’t belong anywhere,” Lindqvist said of the film’s Oscar nod. 
‘Border’ was produced by Meta Film Stockholm, Black Spark & Kärnfilm AB in co-production with Meta Film Denmark together with Film i Väst, SVT and Copenhagen Filmfund. It received financial support from Eurimages, Nordisk Film & TV Fond, the Danish Film Institute and the Swedish Film Institute.